For a significant phase of my professional life I had myself convinced I really didn’t like working with people. Despite being a people photographer.
I guess it wasn’t really that I disliked working with people, it was that it was just so damned hard working muscles that I’d convinced myself were simply never meant to grow.
After all, I was, and still am, an introvert.
Growing up, it was defined as shyness. And, while some introverts may, in fact, be shy, there’s much more to it. While we may not be shy necessarily, many introverts do experience social isolation or feel awkward around new people. Super challenging when we, as people photographers, are often thrust into situations requiring us to appear composed and comfortable, very quickly, with new people. I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret: I love working with people-people. They take on the social heavy lifting with ease and I get to play off them – thank you extroverts!
We live in a culture that values the out-going, the personable, the people-person. So much that is related to our personal and professional success requires a certain level of social interaction. Definitely a burden for those of us disinclined towards social situations, but want to photograph them.
For those extroverted people photogs they’ve got half the battle won. Effortlessly, these outgoing creatives can kibitz, cajole and charm the hell out of a subject, and with the technical expertise sewn up, the sky’s the limit. Without perpetuating a socially awkward victim story, we introverted lens jockeys do have a little more on our plates. Not only do we master the technicalities of our craft, but we have the additional task of learning, and consistently practicing the invaluable people skills necessary to creating beautiful imagery and building a successful business.
As a result, this work we’re driven to do is doubly exhausting – hours of multi-tasking, which totally wears you out!
But, it can be done. Much like going to the gym to build those biceps (I’ve been told they exist…), there is a practice that can help you navigate the social requirements to creating beautiful images… with people. Please keep in mind as you continue reading, none of the points are meant to imply that you need to change or be something different, just the contrary. We don’t want to somehow transform into a party-lovin’, loud and exuberant, extrovert. No. These hints are meant to simply help you incorporate new skills to help you produce better, more confident work as a capable, successful you, and all the quiet and introspective wonder that you entail.
Here’s a few easy to remember tips, consider them your exercises, to sucking it up and getting on with the business of creating beautiful people pictures:
- Let’s begin with the first and most important. Do NOT consider your introversion a flaw or a hindrance to your success. Be positive about this aspect of your temperament and personality. We are an observant bunch – perhaps why we find ourselves drawn to documenting and capturing the human experience – noticing details and subtleties that might escape our more outgoing counterparts.
- This one may surprise/irritate you… but it’s easy and it works! SMILE! I know I totally just pissed you off. How many times have you been told by some well-meaning relative or maybe, simply an obnoxious passer-by, “smile”; or, “you’d be more beautiful if you smiled more…”. I know, right?! UGH.But, bear with me. There is an overwhelming amount of research, studies, and books on the science of smiling (including Charles Darwin’s own The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals). It’s still largely unknown as to why people smile, what’s been identified is that the simple act of smiling elicits significant positive effects on our minds and bodies when we do it regularly. It’s also essential to bringing a sense of ease to your subject, who, regardless their personality, is going to experience some discomfort in front of the lens. Additionally, according to some research, smiling can provide us a short-term “high.” Professionally speaking, smiling is one of the brand manifestations of extroversion. Smiling can help us introverts to appear more approachable, social, and upbeat
- Posture, posture, posture! For the love of all things erect, stand up straight! A head held high, making eye contact, and shoulders held straight and upright give an air of confidence and authority. What clients are looking for from their photographer. They are the vulnerable party and look to you to confidently guide them to a beautiful result.
- Another game-changer: relate to your client or subject about things you know they’re interested in. Talk about the plans for the wedding day; how the couple met; what they do for a living; exchange stories about your kids, if you both have them. In other words, practice agility in your socializing. Asking questions is one of the easiest way to to get the ball rolling.
- Be able to distinguish between being an introvert and a lack of confidence. They aren’t one and the same. I know many confident introverts who are at the top of their games, but it means embracing your introversion without apology and expressing yourself honestly – being yourself. No one’s asking you to all of a sudden transform into the life of the party, but with practice you can be enter into any situation and engage with quiet confidence.
- Indulge in filling your energy cup after each exchange. An eight-hour wedding, smiling, chatting, directing…. it takes a lot of out most introverts. So, take that into consideration and plan for an appropriate amount of guilt-free down-time to replenish your mind, spirit and creativity.
To exercise any of the above needn’t change who we are or betray our principles. To convey a social competency that translates into producing better work and greater success simply means exerting another segment of your personality to help facilitate a sense of ease and comfort on the part of your client, as well as your own damn self!
Regardless, being an introvert in an extrovert’s world is, by no means, easy. Working to achieve success professionally, particularly in an industry that revolves around effective interpersonal interaction on a variety of levels, is even more challenging. But, it doesn’t take much to help you engage more confidently. Little efforts, practiced often, will help you approach any client with a sense of curiosity rather than fear; a sense of authority and confidence rather than inferiority.
The bottom line is, by pushing against that comfort zone, challenging ourselves a little more persistently in front of others, we can better evolve our businesses towards success, while allowing people to better appreciate us for who we truly are and recognize the skills we have to bring to the table… in our own quiet way.
One last thing, there’s one other little tip that can help get those creative juices flowing when you’re overwhelmed with the multi-tasking and need some effortless creative inspiration: the Workshop In Your Pocket Posing Inspiration Swatches. Keep ’em in your camera bag or even your back pocket for a quick glance just when you need it!